Sam Pittman is doing things with Arkansas football that have never been done before.
Now, granted, that’s because this thing he’s doing has only been tracked for about the last 20 or so years. But considering the state of college football, what with the NIL and transfer portal and things, the fact that the Razorbacks head coach has nearly locked up the most 4-star recruits in a single class in Arkansas history, well, that’s not too shabby.
Those totals yield Arkansas the 17th-best recruiting class in the nation so far, according to the 247Sports Composite. That’s only seventh best in the SEC, but it’s not shabby. It’s shaping up to be the best of the Sam Pittman era, too, with previous classes ranked 22nd, 28th, 25th and 29th. And there’s still time to add to the Class of 2024, which sits with 16 commits, nine of which are four-star players. Two of the seven remaining three-star players are bordering on that four-star range and could get there with big senior seasons.
The way 247Sports – the site most consider the top recruiting site in the game – rates classes is a bit complicated for the layperson. Per their wording, “the scores are weighted, based on the rankings, according to a Gaussian distribution formula or a bell curve. In other words, the top recruit is worth 100% of his rating value, the second commit is worth nearly 100% of his rating value, and down to the last recruit who is worth a small fraction of his rating value.”
The question is how it all plays out.
The Evolution of Recruiting
Recruiting is a topic that most reputable sportswriters despise. Fans, however, eat it up, so it’s one of those areas where someone who went to school for journalism, for example, will either pawn it off to a subordinate or grudgingly write it himself (or herself). This is what drives things nowadays, anyway, since everyone stopped actually reading news.
Shoot, that’s how recruiting services started. Go watch the movie Blue Chips from the early 1990s. In it there’s a scene where the college basketball coach played by Nick Nolte and his staff are gathered around a table dealing with a guy – a greasy, weasel-like guy – who runs a recruiting service. In the pre-internet days, this was how it was done.
Diamonds-in-the-rough had to be found through the grapevine. Now everybody has a mix-tape and puts it on the internet. The measurables count more than ever. How fast are you? How strong are you? How smart are you? No more is it eye-test alone.
It’s actually a great change for the players. It’s not totally equal, granted, but it’s easier than ever to be discovered, so to speak. But that change also, generally, helped the biggest of schools and best of programs. They had the sizzle and their cachet would yield the biggest and best of those same players.
The shift to the NIL and the transfer portal, though, has helped even the playing field. There are only so many spots on those stacked rosters and if you aren’t cracking the rotation there, off you go, to greener pastures. That, too, is awesome for the players. And with a coach like Sam Pittman, a coach who players love, that’s great news for the Hogs.
Sam Pittman Poised to Top Chad Morris
It’s just that the rankings before the players arrive on campus, while somewhat predictive, are hardly an end-all, be-all for teams. Chad Morris, for example, brought in the 24th-ranked class in 2019. Treylon Burks, Jalen Catalon, KJ Jefferson and Ricky Stromberg turned into superstars and were four of the class’ 12 four-star players. Greg Brooks Jr., Trey Knox, Zach Williams, Eric Gregory, Taurean Carter, Beaux Limmer, Brady Latham all turned into solid players for the Hogs from the class, too, as three-star players.
That class is about the only positive thing Chad Morris brought to Fayetteville in his less than two seasons as head coach, otherwise known as the darkest days in Arkansas football history. Even with Pittman’s good classes through 2023, the current Hogs coach has yet to land a truly grand one.
That appears to be going by the wayside. What should have fans most excited about the class of 2024, though, is that it has four players in the Top 100 in the country. Arkansas has never had that many.
In fact, with that 247Sports rating, Arkansas has collected a class worth 229.25 points. Morris’ best class – which was better than Bret Bielema’s best, Bobby Petrino’s best or Houston Nutt’s best – was rated 240.33. Pittman’s bunch is poised to break that record, which would set a new Arkansas football high mark for the 21st century.
Significance for Arkansas Football
Now, they still have to sign come December, of course. And the odds that all of them live up to their star rating are slim. But imagine if Pittman’s latest group yields four players the caliber of Burks, Catalon, Jefferson and Stromberg. In some ways, Pittman needs the class to do that.
Arkansas’ schedule in 2024 is the easiest it has been in a good decade, but with just Jefferson and running back Rocket Sanders back as All-SEC givens in 2023, the next generation of Razorbacks is going to have to carry a torch. It’s early yet, but the 2022 class appears not to have produced a star like the 2021 class did with Sanders (to be fair, that’s a high bar).
What should tide Pittman and Co. over, however, is the transfer portal. Arkansas landed the No. 11 class from the portal in the offseason, helping to fill gaps with older players who can step straight into the lineup while the youngsters develop.
What more could a fan ask for? Pittman has things going well just about everywhere now.
More coverage of Arkansas football and Arkansas recruiting from BoAS…